As 2022 comes to a close, we asked ATI2’s Innovation Research Champion, Christopher Godolphin, to discuss some of the research highlights and trends he’s been observing. With his unwavering finger on the pulse, Chris was only too happy to oblige. Here is his synopsis of 2022 and what we can expect as businesses move into 2023.
There are some emerging trends that seem to be universal, rather than sector specific. These trends are partly attributed to the various uncertainties which are manifesting around us; the ever-present inflation rises, the Bank of England raising interest rates, the cost of living and energy price rises, and of course the climate crisis and concerns around the environment.
“Businesses must respond to these in various ways, to not only remain competitive but also to retain some, and hopefully all their market share. However, to do this, businesses must adapt – maximising their efficiencies where possible, and to do this effectively are innovating in numerous ways”, says Chris.
Empirical evidence suggests that agile working patterns are being explored to reduce production costs – for example – some shifts are moving to times when energy demands might be reduced so that production can take place.
Some employers are also continuing to embrace remote working, meaning businesses can dramatically reduce operational costs by having set days in the office, partnering with other businesses to introduce office shares and pool resources (reducing the financial burden of a physical presence), or closing their offices entirely to become a ‘virtual company’. New flexible working legislation is another factor supporting this movement.
Ultramed, the Cornish-based digital health-tech business, became a virtual company one month after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Dr Paul Upton, Co-Founder and CEO at Ultramed, reflects on how they made it work for them:
“It has allowed recruitment on a national basis. We conduct a 6 monthly staff survey. In a recent survey, 10 out of 10 people strongly supported Ultramed being a virtual company.
“However, we have recently conducted our first face-to-face meeting in London. I met 9 employees who I’d only previously seen on Teams. We work hard to build strong professional relationships in the virtual environment using Slack virtual coffee meetings, fun Fridays and regular team meetings.”
Other businesses are looking at increasing their demands on renewable energy sources to not only ensure that they can continue operating at a profit but in some cases expand their margins by reducing energy costs significantly, in turn bolstering their environmental credentials and reducing their overall impact.
You will have noted that Cornish businesses, such as Celsius Cornish Geothermal Distillery and the Jubilee Pool in Penzance, are taking advantage of the geothermal potential here in Cornwall and others are beginning to explore hydrogen.
Undercover Group, who are supported by ATI2’S Business Innovation Advisor, Mike Robertson, are endeavouring to make significant headway into the renewable hydrogen energy sector. “This stems from their business itself and their idea has the potential to positively affect numerous other sectors. It could be revolutionary” says Chris.
However, ground-breaking ideas like these come with risks and require significant investment. This is where ATI2 has been able to assist with strategy, research, and academic knowledge to mitigate the risks of the unknown, and innovation grant funding to reduce financial risk where appropriate – all of which has helped to accelerate (as the project title suggests!) new innovative products and services to market.
Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG)
Sitting alongside sustainability, ESG is set to be a key trend for 2023. There has been a rise in businesses looking to balance people, the planet, and profits. An ESG strategy is all about demonstrating what you are doing to be environmentally and socially responsible and giving stakeholders the confidence that you are a robust and transparent business.
Our clients at Cleaner Seas Group, the creators of the world’s first retro-fit microfibre filter for washing machines, are a fantastic example of this. Check them out here.
Looking outwardly, the ever growing B Corp movement is the embodiment of this ethos, beating the drum to “make business a force for good”, and many are acting and answering its call. In Cornwall, high-profile brands such as Finisterre, Origins Coffee, and Flexi-Hex, proudly don their B Corp certification badge.
Sustainable Digital Development
Digital transformation was forced upon many businesses by the pandemic, but we don’t like the term “transformation” suggesting it’s a one-time revolutionary fix – which in our experience isn’t the case.
Nowadays, it is pertinent for businesses to view digitalisation through a long-term lens, thinking about sustainable digital development and how to continually maintain or improve the digital solutions, services, and experiences now embedded within your business.
Continuing to invest, adapt and incorporate new technology and processes to stay ahead of the curve is key here.
The Cornish Resolute
Our Cornish mantra, “Onen hag oll”, meaning “One and All”, is one that is embedded within the very fabric of the businesses we work with, who often collaborate or give up their time for free to support one another.
“A final observation from our work with Cornish businesses who are disrupting their already innovative sectors, is that all of our client businesses bring an infectious and unequivocal drive, ambition and creativity to their businesses; and that is too encouraging to not only observe but play some small part in. It’s a privilege in very many ways”, reflects Chris.
The pandemic worked to demonstrate how resilient, creative and resourceful we can be. Though 2023 may bring with it harder times to come, we are hopeful that the tempered fibres which bind our business community together will endure.
Christopher Godolphin, ATI 2 Innovation Research Champion